Black Rhino Range Expansion Project Moves Its 250th Rhino
In what has been a year of milestones, WWF’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project has just completed the successful translocation of its 250th rhino.
The Black Rhino Range Expansion Project (BRREP) is celebrating its 20th anniversary in its tireless work to increase the population of this critically endangered species – but the good news doesn’t stop there.
BRREP has just translocated a further 20 rhinos bringing the total number of rhinos to have been moved to 250. In this instance, the rhinos were captured from a reserve managed by the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA).
In the past two decades, more than 200 calves have been born on BRREP sites – and the hope is that this latest move will encourage even more successful breeding.
As a result of these and other efforts, black rhino numbers have more than doubled in the past two decades, from their low point of fewer than 2 500 individuals before the turn of the century. Current estimates are that there are around 6 200 black rhinos (IUCN figure released in 2022).
These numbers represent a significant proportion of the current global population estimate for black rhinos and illustrate the importance of a project such as this in pursuing the targets set for the D.B minor species in African rhino range states and in terms of the South African National Biodiversity Management Plan.
BRREP’s work focuses on finding space for the rhinos to breed. When black rhinos are removed from reserves with existing populations, this helps to relieve pressure and stimulates breeding. The new populations are able to increase their numbers further as they have more space to breed and thrive.
Project Leader Jeff Cooke commented: “BRREP continues to be the most effective mechanism for range expansion and, despite its small size and modest budget, has contributed enormously towards securing the remaining habitat and growing the population.
“Current continental population estimates show some positive growth which is largely due to the increased productivity from newly established sites that are breeding at close to their biological potential. The range expansion model is a critical ingredient in the efforts to save the species and it is hoped that its effects will be magnified as the project starts to benefit from compounded growth.”
Cooke added that this latest milestone would not have been possible without the ongoing support of project partners like Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) and the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA). Also vital to the success of this endeavour are the forward- thinking private and communal landowners who are committed to the long-term survival of the species. Thanks also go to WWF Netherlands for its ongoing funding support.
2004 - BRREP moves its first 15 rhinos to a game reserve in KwaZulu-Natal.
2017 - Rhinos born on a BRREP site are translocated as part of a group to establish a new population for the first time. Today, about 50% of rhinos translocated originate from BRREP sites, the other 50% are still removed from EKZNW and ECPTA reserves.
2019 - BRREP successfully completes its first international black rhino translocation, and the largest one by air in history, to Malawi. The move requires the team to fly the rhinos from Durban in South Africa to Lilongwe in Malawi in a Boeing 747 and from there transport them by road for a further six hours to their final destination.
2023 - BRREP celebrates 20 years of raising rhinos – not only by using helicopters to airlift them but also by stimulating breeding and the raising of new calves on BRREP sites. In November, the project moves its 250th rhino!
WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over five million supporters and a global network active in more than 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.